Dear Mary

Dear Mary: I was at the dinner party when the text came disinviting me

Plus: does a 14-year-old need to tip; and how do I stop having to drive my adult children about?

8 August 2015

9:00 AM

8 August 2015

9:00 AM

Q. While renting in Rock last week, I ran into an acquaintance who invited me to join her large house party for supper the next night. Looking back, the group of ten or so did seem oddly surprised to see me when I arrived. Then, during the pudding course, I looked discreetly down at an incoming text and saw the reply to my own earlier text saying I was looking forward to seeing her later. It announced that she was sorry, but dinner was cancelled that night as none of her house party would be in. The mobile signal in Rock is very bad and the message had only just come through. I pretended not to have received it but she will be aware that I would have it by now. How should I thank this woman for her (involuntary) hospitality?
— M.N., London SW7

A. Save both your faces by pretending to have got the night wrong. The gist of what you write should be: ‘I’m so sorry I came on the wrong night but so glad I did as it was such a fun evening. (Didn’t get your text cancelling Friday till after I had left!)’

Q. I am a mother of several young adults and live in a rural area. While I am very grateful that my children and their friends come to visit me, I find their requests to be collected from and dropped at the nearest railway station (half an hour away) disruptive to a weekend, since it means I spend so many hours driving. How can I encourage these youngsters to make their own travel arrangements?
— Name and address withheld

A. Why not take up drinking at lunchtime? The under-thirties never drive under the influence, so you will hardly need to point out that they have to start taking taxis if they are coming or going after lunch. Pin up the number of a local taxi firm in clear view.

Q. What is the etiquette regarding children tipping? My 14-year-old son is to stay for a week with a schoolfriend whose father owns a sporting estate in Scotland. The boys will be fishing most days and I would welcome guidance on how much tip, if any, a child in the absence of his parents might be expected to leave.
— Name and address withheld

A. I have consulted my panel of sporting experts. The answer is that when the host knows that the parents of an unaccompanied child are the sort of people who would know that tipping is in order, then the child should tip. This is on the assumption that such parents would have given their child cash to do so. The going rate for an adult, if fishing has been included, is £20 per day but a child can get away with tipping £50 for the week. On the day of departure your son should privately hand the £50 to his host for distribution. It would be insufferable for a 14-year-old to hand it directly to the ghillie. A child whose parents would not know the form is excused tipping.

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  • Jackthesmilingblack

    No tipping here in Japan.
    So you conveniently lose the habit.

    • BananaHammok9

      In Japan they also say ‘maybe’, when they actually mean ‘absolutely not possible’. Apart from that it’s a remarkable country.

    • Ticktock

      Well there’s no money in Japan either, so that helps as well.

      • Jackthesmilingblack

        A recession in Japan would be considered a boom in a lot of other countries.

  • richarddorset

    For rural weekend guests, merely announcing that you will be too drunk to collect them – for the entire weekend – seems a bit unwelcoming as well as reinforcing rural stereotypes.

    Better to combine it with the offer of a single run each way to the station, timed to meet a train that is convenient for you and not too impractical for guests. In the country one can usually combine a trip with other chores as well, so it will not be wasted.

    Drinking can then be used as the excuse for not making other trips, and those who cannot fit in with that can make their own arrangements, but you look welcoming without losing half your weekend.

    It also encourages guests to arrive and leave at the times you want rather than hanging on until you are thoroughly tired of them.